A prime goal of the Harpeth Bike Club is to promote safety on the road. Dr. Michael has examined the topic and provides these very useful tips:
There have been a few people injured in cycling accidents recently. Some of us recently had a discussion of what to do if there is a wheel overlap and rubbing of wheels. What is the best way to avoid a fall?
Touching wheels is the major cause of crashes in a peloton or group, so it is important to know what to do to avoid falling if your front wheel gets hit. This is a composite of advice from a number of sources to avoid wheel overlap and falls.
1. Paceline riding to avoid wheel overlap: Match gearing and cadence with the rider next to you. If you pull, maintain a steady speed or cadence (on hills). Stay away from surges at the front.
2. If the paceline slows or yo-yo’s: Feather the rear brake. Coast a pedal stroke or two. Don’t swerve, the rider behind you is depending on your line. Someone stated it well “If a guy at the front moves over 4 inches, then at the back it is amplified to 4 feet”
3. If someone falls in front of you: Don’t get caught watching as the first rider goes down. Focus on an exit strategy. Find a way around or through the trouble ahead. Point the bike straight, level the pedals, and flex your knees and elbows. You will absorb an impact better and allow yourself a chance to ride out of the accident.
4. What to do if there is Wheel Contact: The key to recovering from a wheel contact is to turn your front wheel into the other bicycle’s rear wheel. This allows you to regain balance and then turn away without crashing.
When an overlapped wheel is bumped, turn into the direction of contact. Turn your wheel slightly into the other rider’s back wheel and stop pedaling until the other bike pulls away. Do not overreact. You bike wants to go straight. Keep it straight and then you will pull away slightly. So, if your front wheel taps a rear wheel on your left side, turn the handlebar left into the other bike and lean that way. It is exactly opposite of what you want to do. This provides a counterforce that pushes you and your bike away, together, from the rear wheel without losing your center of gravity. In this technique, your entire body and bike will act as one solid unit and be more likely to bounce off rather than jackknife into a crash. This is the why the Pro’s lean on each other during contact in a sprint.
Here is the reason why.
When the wheels touch from overlap, his rear wheel pushes my front wheel to the left as if I’m starting to turn left. However, the bicycle itself continues going forward, resulting in an immediate fall because the wheel was turned to the left without a corresponding lean to the left by the bicycle.
This explanation can be tested by walking a bike in a straight line, then turning the wheel right or left without leaning the bike in the same direction. The bike will immediately become unbalanced and want to fall. This is the same reason why it is important to leaning into a corner when making a turn on a bike.
Instinctively when wheels touch, the trailing rider (front wheel touch) will want to separate immediately and will jerk the handlebar away from the other rider’s back wheel. But that turn of the wheel without the bicycle leaning in the same direction (while the bicycle continues to go forward) will cause a fall.
I am hoping this explanation, taken from various sources, will help in being able to recover safely from contact of a wheel overlap.